Virginia Astley – Hope In A Darkened Heart, 1986

A favorite that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Virginia Astley is a British musician who put out a small slew of full lengths and EPs in the 80s, but seems to have flown under the American radar. Her music is distinctive for its sing-songy, little boy church choir vocal delivery, and her lyrics, while sometimes indistinguishable, are as dark and ruthless as they come (“I’ve tasted your tongue like a worm from the grave / Had you inside me, then like a rock beside me”). She also used her extensive collection of field recordings to make a gorgeous instrumental concept album chronicling a summer day in the English countryside, which is way more expansive and less twee than it sounds.

My sister first played me Hope In A Darkened Heart a few years ago and it’s stuck with me since. While the songs are effectively pop in structure, the record defies the specificity of genre: it truly sounds like nothing else. Astley wrote all the songs except for the opening track, which is a duet with David Sylvian. Ryuichi Sakamoto and Astley co-produced the record, and it feels very much like both of them: Astley’s lilting, pastoral nostalgia on top of Sakamoto’s mechanical, off-kilter synth chug. Its darkness is belied by how damn pretty it is. Well overdue for a re-release.

3 thoughts on “Virginia Astley – Hope In A Darkened Heart, 1986”

  1. This was totally new to me….downloaded purely on the strength of your recommendation. Very, very nice. Your blog has quickly shot to the top of my list of all-time favorites. Thank you.

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